Miami Central has won two consecutive 6A state titles and has won three of the past four state titles. Hoover has won 30 games in a row, including the past two 6A state titles.
A win by either team would give them a likely boost in the Super 25 rankings.
“We were looking forward to playing out of town against a nationally ranked team,” Miami Central coach Roland Smith said. “It’s always a plus when you play against a team you are not familiar with. The kids are excited to go on the road and play a team like this.”
Twelve of the Super 25 teams open their seasons this weekend, but the game between Central’s Rockets and the Hoover Bucs is clearly the biggest. The game will be televised on ESPN on Saturday, beginning at noon (ET). The game is the only one this week pitting two Super 25 teams.
Besides their state titles, each team comes into the season with a formidable defense. Hoover’s defense is led by Alabama-bound defensive end Christian Bell and linebacker Darrell Williams while Central has nine starting defenders returning.
With Miami Central losing two elite running backs, Dalvin Cook (now at Florida) and Joe Yearby (now at Miami), to graduation, Hoover’s backfield has an edge in experience with senior running back Bradrick Shaw, who rushed for 1,286 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Miami Central will rely on the relatively untested running back group of Cedric Miller, Malik Witherspoon and Clifford Cooper. The Rockets also have an elite receiver in Da’Vante Phillips and another up-and-coming receiver in Anthony Jones.
“They do a good job of running the ball and we have to stop the run,” Smith said. “We want to make them one-dimensional. I hope we score more than one time because we pride ourselves on scoring points.”
Hoover took the game with Miami Central to prepare itself for another run at a state title.
“Our expectations are to win a championship,” Hoover coach Josh Niblett told the Over the Mountain Journal. “You can call that fair or unfair to the kids but that’s the way we go about our business.”
Miami Central is 2-3 in recent games against out-of-state opponents while Hoover has won its last five matchups against teams from other states. But that doesn’t concern Smith, who took Miami Northwestern on the road in 2007 and defeated then-No. 1 Carroll (Southlake, Texas) 29-21 in Dallas.
“That team was a lot more experienced than this one,” Smith said. “We want to represent the city of Miami and the 305 and we also want to represent the state as well.”
A few of the bigger matchups:
Big school power No. 22 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) will open the season Friday for the fourth consecutive year against private school power Cathedral (Indianapolis). The Giants have won each of the past three meetings, but over the three games, the two have been separated by a total of 12 points.
No. 15 McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.), plays North Gwinnett (Suwanee, Ga.) on Saturday. North Gwinnett ousted McEachern from the playoffs last season, 27-21
No. 24 Buford, which won the Georgia AAA title last season plays host to Florida AAA champion Trinity Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) on Saturday. These are very similar teams in that they are lower division powers with a lot of Division I players.